The 2016 NHL Entry Draft has come and gone, and it’s safe to say that the Sabres exited the draft a better team than they entered. While day two of the draft usually isn’t the day where high profile prospects are selected, rounds two through seven are the rounds in which teams select players that will eventually round out their lineups. Buffalo selected a number of players today that can fight for roster spots in the future, and hopefully chose one or two players that can develop into stars.
The Sabres started the day with a bang, as the team traded defenseman Mark Pysyk along with picks number 38 and 89 to the Florida Panthers in exchange for defenseman Dmitry Kulikov and the 33rd overall pick in the draft.
Murray has expressed interest in adding a young left-handed defenseman to the team in the past number of weeks, and was rumored to be interested in Anaheim Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler. By acquiring Kulikov, Buffalo adds a 25 year old defenseman with some offensive ability (138 points throughout 460 NHL games) that can play as a top four defenseman, something that Pysyk has not been able to establish himself as in his time as a Sabre.
With the newly acquired pick, the Sabres selected Rasmus Asplund, a center from Färjestad BK of the Swedish Hockey League. Although Asplund recorded just 12 points for Färjestad this past season, he is described as “slippery and competitive,” and he has “the ability to force turnovers and quickly transition into offense” according to Kris Baker of SabresProspects.com. Asplund plans to spend another season developing in Sweden before making the transition to North America.
With the team’s first pick in the 3rd round, 69th overall, Buffalo selected Cliff Pu, a center from the OHL’s London Knights. Former NHL defenseman Craig Muni described Pu as an “unreal player,” saying that he is “one of the most skilled players in the draft.” Pu posted 31 points in 63 games for the Knights in 2015-16, and may be in a Sabres uniform sooner rather than later.
With the 86th pick in the draft, Buffalo selected their first defenseman of the day, Casey Fitzgerald from Boston College. Fitzgerald, a two-way defenseman with offensive upside, recorded 27 points in 39 games for the Eagles this past season.
Fitzgerald was excited to be drafted by the team hosting the draft, as he said that the “fans were unbelievable,” and that he’s “heard great things from Jack (Eichel)” about the city.
The Sabres only pick in the fourth round would be Brett Murray, a 6’5” power winger who is committed to play his college hockey for the Penn State Nittany Lions. Murray played well for the Carleton Place Canadians of the Central Canada Hockey League in 2015-16, scoring 14 goals and 32 assists for the team in 48 games. Buffalo should look to sign Murray to an entry level deal soon, as if they don’t, they could face a situation similar to the Jimmy Vesey saga that recently unfolded in Nashville.
With back to back picks in the fifth round, the Sabres would take two defensemen, Philip Nyberg of Sweden and Vojtech Budik of the Czech Republic. Standing at 6’3”, Nyberg adds size to the Sabres’ defensive core, and the former Linköping HC standout is committed to play at the University of Wisconsin next season.
Budik, a Czech, is just one of many Czech players to be drafted in recent years, as the country is seemingly going through a hockey renaissance. Budik played for the Prince Albert Raiders of the WHL this past season, and plans to attend the Sabres’ developmental camp in July.
With the 159th pick in the draft, the Sabres selected Brandon Hagel, a winger from the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League.
The hard-working yet small (standing at 5’11”) winger played in over 70 games for the Rebels in 2015-16, finishing the season with 47 points.
Like most of the players taken in the later rounds, Hagel will need some time to develop before he cracks the line up, but Hagel has enough skill and the work ethic to eventually make the team.
In what must have been a surreal moment for the prospect, Buffalo selected East Aurora native Austin Osmanski with their first pick in the seventh round.
A stay-at-home defenseman with some size, Osmanski played in 65 games with the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads in 2015-16, recording just 10 points. Osmanski was thrilled to be selected by his hometown team, saying that it was “a dream come true.”
While it may take some time for Osmanski to make the roster, being selected by the Sabres may enough excitement to hold him over until that day comes.
With their final pick in the draft, Buffalo selected Vasili Glotov from Serebryanye Lvy St. Petersburg of the MHL, Russia’s minor hockey league. In his first year with Serebryanye Lvy, Glotov recorded just 14 points in 55 games. In his second year, Glotov scored 55 points in just 42 games. If Glotov can continue to improve and produce at the next level, he has a serious chance of making the roster at some point in the future.
Overall, Buffalo made strong selections in the first draft the city has hosted since 1998. The Sabres selected a potential future star in Alexander Nylander, and made some selections on day two that can turn into formidable players in the future.
Tim Murray was also able to acquire Dmitry Kulikov, the left-handed defenseman that Murray has wanted since he took over as the team’s general manager. Sabres’ brass should be happy with the draft they put together, and Sabres fans should be happy as well.